Net Neutrality debate was riddled with millions of fake comments in the most prolific known instance of political impersonation in US history
A fierce battle over the regulation of the internet was riddled with millions of fake comments in the most prolific known instance of political impersonation in US history. In a key part of the puzzle, two little-known firms, Media Bridge and LCX Digital, working on behalf of industry group Broadband for America, misappropriated names and personal information as part of a bid to submit more than 1.5 million statements favorable to their cause. The anti–net neutrality comments harvested on behalf of Broadband for America, the industry group that represented telecommunications giants including AT&T, Cox, and Comcast, were uploaded to the Federal Communications Commission website by Media Bridge founder Shane Cory, a former executive director of both the Libertarian Party and the conservative sting group Project Veritas.
The rise of political impersonation threatens a core aspect of US democracy: the process by which federal agencies canvass public opinion before enacting new regulations. The process is not the same as voting, and the results aren’t binding — but they provide a forum for public debate, and officials are obliged to consider all viewpoints submitted, making them a crucible for lobbying by powerful interests. The internet has made it possible for these consultations to be conducted virtually, vastly extending their reach in an apparent leap forward for digital-era democracy. But there’s little stopping anyone from submitting statements under fake — or misappropriated — identities.
The New Way To Hack Democracy: The Political Operatives Who Fake Voter Outrage With Millions Of Made-Up Comments